No travel restrictions needed, EU says ahead of swine flu talks

Other News Materials 28 April 2009 16:25 (UTC +04:00)

The European Union's top health official Tuesday ruled out the need for travel restrictions to areas affected by outbreaks of swine flu for the time being, and insisted that properly cooked pork meat is safe to eat, dpa reported.

"At this juncture I do not see any point in restricting travelling," said EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou.

On Monday, the commissioner had issued a personal recommendation inviting citizens to "avoid non-essential travel" to Mexico and other badly affected areas.

EU health ministers are due to discuss how to respond to the crisis in a meeting due to take place in Luxembourg on Thursday.

Those talks will focus on how to increase surveillance of suspect cases, identify such cases quickly and coordinate precautionary measures, including possible advice to travellers, Vassiliou said.

The EU executive in Brussels, the European Commission, has also called a meeting Wednesday with pharmaceutical companies to discuss the effectiveness of existing anti-viral drugs and how many months it might take to develop a vaccine.

So far, four cases of swine flu have been confirmed in Europe - two in Britain and two in Spain.

Suspected cases are still being investigated in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Poland, France and Sweden.

"We expect the situation in the EU to change over the course of the next few days," the commissioner said.

Vassiliou also insisted that pork meat is safe, "provided it is properly cooked."

EU health experts note that the virus is not transmitted through pigs' blood and note that the EU does not import any pork.

The European Commission is proposing changing the name of the virus to "novel flu" out of fears that the commonly-used name might put people off eating EU-produced pork.

"Nobody should underestimate the situation, but there is no reason to panic either," Vassiliou said.